Let me first state that all statistics for the 2012 season have been completed. For those curious, I plan on doing this again next season and will try to post on occasion this offseason. I'm currently working on drive stats for the 2009 season.
I'm going to use the Adjusted Efficiency Rankings from this past season to breakdown all 124 teams into four classes. Here is how they are broken down:
1-31: College Football's Upper Class
32-62: College Football's Upper-Middle Class
63-93: College Football's Lower-Middle Class
94-124: College Football's Lower Class
2012 Conference Rankings
As most probably expected, the SEC finished the season as the nation's top conference. The SEC continues to distinguish itself from other leagues by playing superior defense. There was very little difference in the adjusted defensive efficiencies among the Big 12, Pac-12, and Big Ten. In spite of a decent showing in bowl games, the ACC had a largely forgettable season. The Big East will likely never finish ahead of the ACC in these rankings ever again. The WAC will never be in these rankings again. The Sun Belt probably had the best season in its brief history.
The surprising part about the conference breakdown to casual fans of college football will probably be the fact that the Big Ten had seven teams in the Top 25%. The Big Ten receives significant criticism, but their top seven teams were all solid. They just didn't field any elite teams this past season. While I think Ohio State is likely underrated in these rankings, their inability to blow out inferior opponents (e.g. Purdue) unquestionably had an impact on their finish. The Buckeyes seemed to play their best football against the best teams on their schedule. Expect the Buckeyes to return to the top of these rankings next season. I'm fully aware that is one of the least audacious predictions anyone can make.
It would have been interesting to see what a playoff would have looked like this year. Oregon was quite clearly among the top four teams in the country, but I'm not sure they have gotten into a four-team playoff because they didn't win their conference. The same could be said of Texas A&M. I'm just interested in seeing if the four-team ultimately selects the four best teams, or the four most deserving teams. For example, Stanford beat Oregon in Eugene. Stanford probably wasn't better than Oregon, but their to head-to-head outcome would indicate that they were more deserving.
Also, Marcus Mariota hasn't been mentioned enough for next year's Heisman. Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd (if he returns), A.J. McCarron, and Braxton Miller justifiably deserve inclusion in this discussion. Mariota was absolutely sensational this past season. He's already better than Darron Thomas or Jeremiah Masoli as a redshirt freshman. The only offenses to post higher adjusted offensive efficiencies in the past three seasons were 2010 Stanford and 2011 Wisconsin. Each of those teams had pretty good quarterbacks too.
College Football's Upper-Middle Class in 2012
College Football's Lower-Middle Class in 2012
College Football's Lower Class in 2012
The only teams in the lower class from power conferences were Maryland, Boston College, Wake Forest, Colorado, and Illinois.